3 Doors Down (Contemporary Musicians)
Image Pop-Up3 Doors Down.
One of the most successful rock bands to have emerged in recent years, 3 Doors Down is considered a phenomenon within the music industry. Often called 3DD, this five-piece outfit came out of small-town Mississippi to become a record-breaking act whose two albums and handful of singles have sold in the millions. The band became the first debut act in the history of the record charts to hit number one concurrently in Modern Rock, Active Rock, Album Rock, and Heritage Rock radio formats. 3DD accomplished this feat with its single "Kryptonite," a track that uses Superman imagery to explore the question of what would happen to someone who, after having been placed on a pedestal, does something to damage his or her image. The group is lauded for bringing melody, hooks, wholesomeness, and a straightforward approach back to rock 'n' roll which, at the time that the group put out its first CD in early 2000, often was considered to be in its dying stages or to have been co-opted by genres such as rap/rock, punk, and heavy metal.
Categorized as alternative, modern rock, post-grunge, pop/rock, pop/metal, and other classifications, 3DD consider themselves a band that plays no-frills American rock. Their sound is characterized by catchy tunes, big sonics, dynamic guitar interplay, a muscular rhythm section, and Brad Arnold's thoughtful lyrics and impassioned baritone vocals. 3DD often are noted for creating a formula that places slower, softer verses next to faster, harder choruses. The band is compared to a variety of groupsouthern alternative rockers such as Creed and Matchbox 20; hard-driving predecessors such as Metallica and Pearl Jam; radio-friendly pop/rockers like Third Eye Blind and the Goo Goo Dolls; and later groups such as Nickelback, Lifehouse, and Puddle of Mudd, who share 3DD's combination of muscle and melody.
The core group that comprises 3 Doors Downocalist Arnold, guitarists Matt Roberts and Chris Henderson, and bassist Todd Harrellrew up in Escatawpa, Mississippi, a city of about 8,000 people that Harrell described laughingly to Lisa Wilton of the Calgary Sun as "a one-light, one-grocery store kind of town." The members of 3DD have been acquainted since boyhood. Harrell told Jeremy Helligar of Teen People, "We all grew up together, man, so we're all good friends." All of the members of 3DD came from a religious background, and all of them felt the call of rock 'n' roll at an early age. In a comment on the Republic Records website, Arnold stated, "I would set up pots and pans when I was little, just beat on stuff, whatever I could find." After taking up drums and bass, respectively, Arnold and Harrell would practice their instruments at each other's houses. The youngest of seven, Arnold also recalls being influenced by the variety of music that he heard through his siblings. Henderson, whose strict stepmother did not care for rock music, hid his headphones in his room, and played records when he was supposed to be sleeping. The friends were big fans of Southern bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, .38 Special, and the Outlaws; of British rockers like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Bad Company; and of country and country/rock artists like Merle Haggard and Charlie Daniels. They also idolized American heavy-metal band Metallica and liked lighter, more tuneful fare by Peter Frampton and Kansas.
Arnold wrote the lyrics for "Kryptonite" in his algebra class at East Central High School in Hurley, Mississippi. He told Jill Pesselnick of Billboard, "The song took maybe 15 or 20 minutes to write. Usually by the time I actually write the lyrics on a sheet down on a sheet of paper, I already have the thoughts pretty clear in my mind." He added, "[A]ll 3 Doors Down songs tell a story."
In 1994 Arnold, Roberts, and Harrell formed a trio that played its first gig at a friend's backyard party. The group, for which drummer Arnold was chosen as singer by default, played four songsovers by Metallica and English alterna-rockers Bush, as well as two originalsver and over again. Deciding to concentrate on their own material, the band began to play at clubs throughout the South. In Foley, Alabama, they saw an old, boarded-up building with a faded sign that was missing some letters and numbers; the sign said "Doors Down." Since there were three members of the band at that time, they took the name 3 Doors Down. Henderson, a guitarist who had played with Harrell before joining the Navy, was asked to become a member of the band to bolster its sound. The group recorded demos and an independent album and continued to tour the Southeast, becoming the biggest draw on the Gulf Coast club circuit. They made ten appearances on radio station WCPR in Biloxi, Mississippi; "Kryptonite" received so many requests that it was added to the station's regular playlist, where the song stayed in rotation for seven months. The success of "Kryptonite" prompted interest by record labels. After a showcase at CBGB's, a legendary club in New York City, 3 Doors Down was signed by Republic Records, a subsidiary of Universal Records.
A "Better Life for 3DD
In 2000 3DD released their first major-label record, Better Life. The album received a mixed critical reception; it was praised for its strong lyrics and energetic, well-constructed music, yet criticized for being generic and derivative. Relic, a critic for The Caverns online, said that 3DD is one of the few bands out there that "delivers a complete set of quality tracks from start to finish. Seeing as this is their first album, the accomplishment is even more outstanding." The critic concluded that if 3 Doors Down's next album can match this one, "I would already go as far as to notch them up on the top 10 modern alternative bands." Michael Gallucci of the Illinois Entertainer was less enthusiastic. He commented, "This Mississippi quartet comes from the same moan and groan school as all the other Pearl Jam students [T]hey're sulky, brooding guys with self-esteem problems and their music lacks the appropriate punch to push their songs over." Steve Lichtenstein of Pop Matters online stated, "Three Doors Down sounds a lot like Stone Temple Pilots. Or even Creed. Or a host of other stale attempts at brooding alt-metal Everything is standard fare here" He concluded, "Rock, at least as we knew it and loved it, is mostly dead. Let this be the last sullied dirt blanketing the coffin."
After the release of Better Life, Arnold switched from drummer to frontman at the urging of his record company, although he still lays down initial drum tracks in the studio. 3DD then added a new drummer, Richard Liles, who had gone to the same high school as the other members of the band. The group toured as an opening act for Creed and began to create a buzz. Radio stations picked up on "Kryptonite," and the record-buying public made both it and the albumhich also yielded the other number one singles "Loser," "Duck and Run," and "Be Like That"stounding successes, especially for a new band.
Two Discs Down
The little band from Mississippi became a world-class act, playing two international tours; having three songs produced by Alex Lifeson, guitarist for the Canadian rock band Rush; and performing at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, in 2001. However, the band encountered a few internal problems. Liles left the group and was replaced by Canadian percussionist Daniel Adair, who toured with them and did studio sessions. In addition, bassist Harrell was charged with a misdemeanor simple assault for allegedly punching a 49-year-old man, Terry Alexander, for taping an unreleased 3DD song at a party. Alexander, who had been injured in a car accident, claimed that he needed his tape recorder to help him with his memory. The judge for the case dismissed the charges against Harrell. 3 Doors Down earned more positive press when it embarked on a goodwill tour of American military bases in Europe and the Middle East in 2002, recording a video for its song "When I'm Gone" aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. George Washington, which was docked off the coast of Portugal. Navy administrators sent copies of the video to all of the ships at sea.
In late 2002 3DD released its second album, Away from the Sun, which featured new drummer Josh Freese, a well-respected studio and solo musician who also is the member of such groups as the Vandals and A Perfect Circle. Away from the Sun includes two successful singles, "When I'm Gone" and "The Road I'm On." Several reviewers called the album an improvement over its predecessor, noting a maturation in both lyrics and sound, while others chastised the band for making the album too mellow and for not including any songs as catchy as "Kryptonite." Writing on Polytechnic online, Scott Robertson said that Away from the Sun "is the first that I have listened to in recent years that does not contain a single song that I don't enjoy No modern rock collection is complete without this album." Johnny Loftus of All Music Guide queried, "What sophomore slump?" before concluding that Away from the Sun may be "the transition record 3 Doors Down needed to make in order to separate itself from the glut of sound-a-likes and establish its future as a viable, album-oriented Southern rock act." Adrian Zupp of Rolling Stone noted that "[t]here isn't a track in the setthat comes within a superhero's stone's throw of 'Kryptonite"s hookiness Rest assured, this is a measured, quality album, but that might not be enough for the 'fans from 2000.'" Jamal Ahmad of MusicOMH.com predicted, "Their next album could see 3 Doors Down finding their own sound. Like life in general, it's what they make of it, which ain't so bad at the moment."
In evaluating the success of 3DD, Chris Henderson told Alan Sculley of the Northern California Bohemian, in an interview reprinted on the Metro Active website, "[W]hen you're successful, man, you've got to take it and run with it. There are a lot of other bands that want to live the life through you. Basically, we owe it to ourselves and we owe it to everybody else and to all of our fans to do the best we can and take everything that comes to us. So as many records as they want to buy, man let it get as big as it possibly can and we'll handle it." Matt Roberts told Focus magazine online, "[A]s long as the people are receptive and want to hear it, we're going to be out there doing our thing." Brad Arnold told Jill Pesselnick of Billboard, "I can't think another thing on the face of the planet that I would rather be doing." He stated to Jeremy Helligar of Teen People, "If there's one thing I've learned it's that you can catch that dream if you want to. If you want it bad enough and try hard enough, you can get your breaks along the way. You can do it." Arnold confided to Alan Sculley of the Nuvo website, "I'll always tend to measure our success by how many people come up to me at shows and tell me this song or that song has helped them through a time or changed them in some way or helped them in some way. I would just much rather hear that than have a six million album plaque on my wall."
Better Life, Republic/Universal, 2000.
(Contributor) American Pie 2 (soundtrack), Republic/Universal, 2001.
Away from the Sun, Republic/Universal, 2002.
Billboard, April 22, 2000, p. 77.
Calgary Sun, July 28, 2000.
Illinois Entertainer, August 2000.
Northern California Bohemian, July 12, 2001.
Rolling Stone, November 12, 2002.
Teen People, June 1, 2001, p. 110.
"Doors Big Move away from Sun," Polytechnic online, http://poly.union.rpi.edu/article_view.php3?view=1922&part=1 (April 2, 2003).
"3 Doors Down," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (April 10, 2003).
"3 Doors Down," The Caverns, http://thecaverns.netfirms.com/reviews/3doorsdown.htm (June 3, 2003).
"3 Doors Down," Focus (Tampa Bay, FL), (April 6, 2003).
"3 Doors Down," Republic Records, http://www.republicrecords.com (March 31, 2003).
"3 Doors Down: Away from the Sun," Music OMH, http://www.musicomh.com/albums/three-doors-down.htm (April 4, 2003).
"3 Doors Down Builds on Success," Nuvo, http://www.nuvo.net/news/archive/003328.html (January 29, 2003).
3 Doors Down Official Website, http://www.3doorsdown.com (April 4, 2003).
"Three Doors Down: The Better Life," Pop Matters, (April 1, 2003).
erard J. Senick